Much like former Vanderbilt teammate Darius Garland, Aaron Nesmith is projected to be a lottery selection despite having his college career cut short due to injury.
Garland was barely into his first season with the Commodores when he suffered a season-ending meniscus injury in his fifth game. He decided to leave the school in January of 2019 to continue his recovery and prepare for the NBA draft. After being selected fifth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 20-year-old point guard averaged 12.3 points, 3.9 assists and shot 35.5% on 5.0 3-point attempts per game while starting all of the 59 games he played in 2019-20.
Now Nesmith is aiming to take a similar path after he averaged 23.0 points and 4.9 rebounds while hitting 52.2% from 3-point range before going down with a season-ending foot injury in the 14th game of his second season. Though he had hinted at returning to Vandy after undergoing surgery in January, the sophomore did not make a comeback and declared for the NBA draft after the season.
Despite his limited experience, the 21-year-old swingman is projected to go as high as 10th in Wednesday night’s draft by some outlets and he’s ranked 13th in ESPN’s overall player rankings. This begs the question: Should teams take a chance on Nesmith – as the Cavs did on Garland – despite the limited college experience with a valuable top-13 pick?
Our NBA Draft Model has given its response to the Nesmith dilemma and more ahead of this year’s draft on Wednesday night. The model, which uses one of the most sophisticated and comprehensive data-driven formulas to date, analyzes numerous factors to compare this year’s prospects to current and former players with similar profiles at the time they were entering the NBA.
We’re not going to give away everything that goes into it, but we can reveal that it includes historical data, volume and rate statistics, ratings, popular consensus draft rankings and biographical information. The model takes those data points and calculates a projected win share total for players over the first four years of their careers.
So what does our model reveal about Nesmith? At No. 20 in the rankings, Nesmith is one of our top two overvalued forwards/centers in this draft. We’ll also expose two overvalued guards, and examine two undervalued prospects in each category.
In terms of Nesmith, because he’s pretty one dimensional as a shooter that’s not exceptional in any other areas, our model would not spend a top-13 pick on him. And though he was on pace for one of the best 3-point shooting seasons in NCAA history at 52.2%, the 14-game sample size works against him after only shooting 33.7% from deep as a freshman. As a result, Nesmith’s player comparisons range from Klay Thompson in a best-case scenario to Davon Reed on the bottom side.
Former Alabama playmaker Kira Lewis Jr. is one of those prospects soaring up draft boards, and ESPN has him 16th overall in its player rankings. But Lewis should be a late first-round pick at No. 24 in our draft model, likely because his 6-foot-3, 165-pound frame will need bulking up and he was not able to produce much in the way of assists and steals on the defensive end as a freshman.
Lewis Jr. is going to be behind in terms of his development as he was only 17 years old when he joined the Crimson Tide (he’ll be true freshman age this year), and point guards often take longer to develop. The model does take that into account and essentially shows us what the players most similar to him have done. It shows Brandon Knight on the high end and Jonny Flynn at the other end.
There was a time not long ago when Arizona product Nico Mannion was listed in the top 10 of some mock drafts. But over the course of his freshman season, his draft stock suffered an eye-opening fall in most projections. Mannion has talent but is considered to have a lack of athleticism and most outlets still rank him as a first-rounder – he’s 25th on ESPN’s board.
However, our model isn’t going to rank a guard who shot 32.7% in 162 3-point attempts over 32 games during his one season with the Wildcats very high and it points to him being an early second-round selection at No. 32. Mannion’s comps reveal he could be as good as valuable backup D.J. Augustin or more like Marquis Teague, who spent parts of three seasons in the league.
Former Mississippi State swingman Robert Woodard II made strides as a sophomore, but he had a pretty low starting off point after averaging 5.5 points and shooting 27.3% from 3-point range as a freshman for the Bulldogs. Though it’s promising that he hit 30 of 70 (42.9%) from beyond the arc in 2019-20, Woodard’s 61.7 career free-throw percentage doesn’t bode well for his long-term shooting prospects.
Woodard is a late first-round pick on most draft boards, and 26th in ESPN’s rankings, but our model has him well into the second round at No. 38. It shows his comps ranging from Glenn Robinson III to Adonis Thomas, whose only NBA season was in 2013-14.
When it comes to undervalued players, ex-Stanford guard Tyrell Terry stands out. While he’s ranked 39th on ESPN’s board, our draft model indicates he probably should be a late first-round selection at No. 30. Terry also has some promising player comps in Patrick Beverley, the aforementioned Garland and Malik Beasley, with Shane Larkin, Wade Baldwin IV and Jordan Crawford on the down side.
We’re guessing it’s Terry’s ability to shoot the rock that boosts his value and should translate nicely to the next level. The 6-2, 190-pound freshman(I’m seeing various for his height and weight) hit 40.8% in 152 3-point attempts and shot 89.1% over 110 attempts from the free-throw line in his only season with the Cardinal.
Once considered a lock for the top-10, Killian Hayes is now projected by most mock draft sites to go 10th or later on Wednesday night. He did shoot 21.8% in 20 domestic league games but 39% in 10 EuroCup contests in Germany, but he also shot 48.2% from the field overall and 87.6% from the free-throw line while posting 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals in just 24 minutes per game.
Our model is sticking with the 19-year-old left-hander from France in the top 10 at No. 6 as perhaps the clear-cut second-best prospect in a supremely critical position. His best-case comp is Malcolm Brogdon, while his worst is more like Kendall Marshall, who played for four teams in four years. But his average-case scenario is a player like Kirk Hinrich, who had a solid 13-year run in the NBA.
To say that Isaiah Stewart from Washington and Vernon Carey Jr. out of Duke are undervalued is an understatement. Stewart, ranked 27th on ESPN’s board, is eighth according to our model and ESPN has Carey 43rd, while we have him at 16.
Stewart, who still hasn’t reached his 20th birthday, had both a high rebound rate and field-goal percentage in his lone season with the Huskies. He shot 57.0% from the field and finished tied for second in the Pac-12 with 8.8 rebounds per game.
Similarly, Carey finished with a 57.7 field-goal percentage and third in the ACC with 8.8 rebounds per game in his one season with the Blue Devils. The 6-10, 270-pound center also showed an impressive ability to pour in points, averaging 28.7 points per 40 minutes – the fifth most in the nation.
While some scouts have downgraded him because traditional post players aren’t a big part of today’s NBA, Carey Jr. has made an effort to alleviate those claims by shedding 30 pounds. Our model has pinpointed DeMarcus Cousins as his best-case player comparison, while it has Kevin Love as Stewart’s best-case comp.
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